Insurance fraud is any act committed with the intent to fraudulently obtaining compensation from an insurer. This includes the misrepresentation of the circumstances surrounding a traffic accident.
The accident reconstruction experts at Crash Data Services, LLC recognize that automotive insurance fraud poses a very significant problem. Therefore, our reconstructionists offer organizations the assistance that they need in preventing such activities.
Generally, insurance fraud is fought by fraud bureaus. Fraud bureaus are state agencies charged with the investigation and prosecution of insurance fraud in their state. Most states have fraud bureaus which investigate fraud across nearly all lines of insurance, including automotive. However, there are those states that do not have multi-line fraud bureaus. Those states are Alabama, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Those states without insurance fraud bureaus, such as Illinois, rely heavily on private industry special investigation units (SIU) to identify and deter fraudulent insurance claims. The accident reconstruction experts at Crash Data Services, LLC can assist these SIU agents by providing clearly articulated evidence of automotive insurance fraud.
Automotive insurance fraud has existed since the time that auto insurance policies first became available to consumers. Fraudulent auto claims account for a significant portion of all claims received by insurers, and cost billions of dollars annually.
Types of automotive insurance fraud are varied, and take place across all lines, including liability only, commercial, and comprehensive policies. Fraudulent auto insurance claims can involve exaggerated claims of injury. Or, they can involve deliberately caused or staged accidents.
Types of Automotive Insurance Fraud
The complexity of automotive insurance scams varies greatly. They generally fall into one of two categories, either soft automotive insurance fraud or hard auto insurance fraud.
Soft Automotive Insurance Fraud
Soft automotive insurance fraud can involve the exaggeration of injuries sustained as a result of a traffic accident. The Rand Institute for Civil Justice estimates that one third of people hurt in traffic accidents exaggerate their injuries.
Or, a person might file a claim over a real injury, but one that did not actually result from the collision in which they were involved. Still other motorists will try to pump up the value of a claim by misrepresenting the actual cost to repair their vehicle. Many of these types of auto insurance fraud are performed with the hopes of off-setting the premium of the policy.
Hard Automotive Insurance Fraud
Hard automotive insurance fraud, however, can be much more dangerous. These types of auto insurance scams can include staged automobile collisions. One of the most infamous forms of the staged accident is the swoop and squat. The swoop and squad involves two offending vehicles and one unsuspecting victim. In this case, one of the offending vehicles drives in front of the victim, while the second offending vehicle swerves in front of the first. The first offending vehicle then abruptly slams on the brakes, causing the victim vehicle to rear-end it. Often, the defrauders who perpetrate this type auto insurance scam will target persons talking on cell phones, driving with children or infants in the vehicle, or the elderly.
The profitable nature of these types of staged accidents has led to the terminology “crash for cash” scams. In other words, defrauders think of staged accidents as a means of getting wealthy.
Beyond staged traffic accidents, still other forms of hard auto insurance involve the filing of a claim when the person was not actually involved in the accident. For example, when a vehicle was rear-ended in a crash, there might only be one person in the car. But, when the claim is filed with the insurer, there may be 4 or 5 people who claimed that they were also in the car at the time of the accident.
Another form of hard auto insurance fraud involves the submission of claims for medical treatment that was not actually received. Often, an insured will make an arrangement with a deceptive chiropractic specialist or medical doctor, wherein the insured allows the specialist or doctor to bill the insurer for services, even though they are never received. The insured then receives some portion of the chiropractic or medical fees.
And finally, some auto insurance fraud involves the outright fabrication of injuries. These injuries often involve soft tissue injuries of the neck or back. These specific types of injuries are difficult to identify medically.
These fraudulent auto insurance claims often directly shape the existence of innocent people through accidental or purposeful injury or damage. And, even if consumers are not directly affected by a staged traffic accident, both soft and hard auto insurance fraud causes general consumer premiums to be higher than necessary. Auto insurance fraud adds an estimated 13-18 billion to the annual insurance bills that Americans must pay.
All of the accident reconstruction experts who perform investigative services for Crash Data Services, LLC are graduates of Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety Accident Reconstructionist Program and/or are certified reconstructionists by the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction (ACTAR).
The accident reconstruction experts at Crash Data Services, LLC offer investigative services such as crash data retrieval or general accident reconstruction techniques to help explore suspicious claims.
Crash data retrieval is the process by which reconstructionists download the recorded data from inside a vehicle’s black box, or event data recorder (EDR). An EDR is generally located in the airbag control module (ACM) or powertrain control module (PCM) of a vehicle. The data from these modules can supply crucial information for use in the analysis of a traffic accident.
Crash data can give our accident reconstruction experts a more detailed assessment of speed and crash severity. Crash severity is, of course, the general mechanism of injury. This particular information could be used to refute those hard insurance fraud claims where the occupant fabricates an injury.
The above download illustrates a relatively large crash pulse that took place over a relatively short period of time. Larger crash pulses with short durations are generally more likely to cause injury.
The above download illustrates a relatively small crash pulse that took place over a relatively long period of time. Smaller crash pulses with longer durations are generally less likely to cause injury.
In the above download, we see that the vehicle was capable of recording occupant information. When the vehicle was in an accident, the front passenger seat was “Empty”.
Pre-Crash Data (above) is often critical in detecting staged collisions.
Crash data retrieval can also help our reconstruction experts determine if reported accident scenarios are possible. For example, many vehicles now record speed and brake use. This can be particularly useful to our reconstructionists when identifying staged accidents. If a vehicle was driven with the intent to strike another vehicle, then the pre-crash data can show signs of intentional vehicle misuse.
In the above accident, a Chevy Blazer and Chrysler 300 collided in an intersection. Both drivers claim that they stopped for their stop sign. At least one driver from this collision cannot be telling the truth.
In the above data downloaded from the Chevy Blazer, it becomes readily apparent that the vehicle did not stop for its stop sign. Instead, the vehicle was traveling about 14 MPH when it violated the sign.
Our experts can also adapt general accident reconstruction techniques to automotive insurance fraud investigation.
Vehicle damage evaluations can be utilized by our experts to assess what type of accident a vehicle was in, what it struck, or how old vehicle damage is. Occupant kinematic evaluations can help our reconstructionists explain which person was operating a vehicle when it crashed. And full accident reconstruction assessments can provide dynamic details, such as how fast a vehicle was traveling or how two vehicles interacted during a collision.
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